On Friday, November 8th, the President Emmanuel Macron receives his Tajik colleague, who also plans to attend the Paris Peace Forum. Reporters without borders (RWB) calls on European leaders to make respect for the principles of freedom of speech a condition for their cooperation with this country.
“The President of France has decided to accept his Tajik colleague Emomali Rahmon. This meeting is a unique opportunity to raise the issue of freedom of speech,” the statement said. “Despite the fact that it is guaranteed by the constitution of Tajikistan and international agreements, it is daily violated in this country, where there are fewer and fewer independent journalists. Since 2016, when the policies of the President Emomali Rahmon were changed towards repression, more than twenty of them were forced to seek refuge abroad.”
“Whatever the economic and strategic benefits of relations between France and Tajikistan, issues of media freedom should not be ignored during an open partnership dialogue,” the RWB reminds the Department of Eastern Europe and Central Asia. “The ongoing repression is incompatible with the deepening relations between Paris and Dushanbe. And in connection with the participation of Emomali Rahmon in the Paris Peace Forum, we urge all European leaders to make respect for freedom of speech a condition for their relations with Tajikistan.”
Since 2015, this country has dropped 45 places in the world ranking of freedom of speech. This race for wear is due, in particular, to the introduction of comprehensive censorship on the Internet. The government communications control agency illegally and arbitrarily blocks information resources, similar to how it is done with the independent media Asia-Plus, which has become one of its favorite goals. The purpose of this organization is primarily to strengthen the personal power of the President Rahmon.
In 2018, the Tajik authorities also appropriated a monopoly on Internet connection within the country. This affects the reference information sites (such as Ferghana and Akhbor), social networks, messengers, video services (such as YouTube), and even sometimes Google… They do not hesitate to block access to any resources without even contacting providers. Such actions turned into an instantaneous reflex when information, that touched on the topic of economic or social difficulties, appeared, as well as civil protest.
Harassment by security services, intimidation and blackmail have become part of the daily lives of those few journalists who continue to try to honestly do their work. So, Khairullo Mirsaidov went to jail immediately after the publication of an open letter in which he accused senior officials of stealing budget funds. As a result of an unfair trial, he was sentenced on July 11, 2018 to twelve years in prison, although he was released eight months later. However, his example did not go unnoticed. The atmosphere of intimidation makes journalists refuse to cover sensitive topics. Self-censorship becomes the best ally of corrupt officials.
International media are also under pressure. In particular, the journalists of the Tajik service Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE) work under the threat of deprivation of accreditation.
Tajikistan ranks 161 of 180 in the Global Press Freedom rating in 2019.